Wednesday, September 20, 2006


At a Cannes Film Festival during the 1970s Cilla joined George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and glam-rock pop star Marc Bolan to attend a screening of the John Lennon-Yoko Ono experimental film
Erection. She also holidayed with them on this trip aboard a yacht chartered by Ringo. "Photograph" was written on this trip - originally intended for Black to record - but Starr decided to record it himself. George Harrison also wrote two songs for Cilla - "The Light That Has Lighted The World" and "I'll Still Love You (When Every Song Is Sung)". The latter she recorded in 1974, but it was not heard publicly until 2003, when it surfaced on a retrospective collection entitled "The Best of 1963-78".

(Excerpted from Wikipedia)

On John and Paul

The Music of Lennon and McCartney, Granada Television, Manchester 1965

"Sex appeal oozed from John's every pore. We obviously adored Paul, with that lovely baby face and everything. But what John didn't realise was that he had this incredible sexual power. It's a shame really, because he never really knew he had that."

(Cilla Black, Daily Mail interview, December 2002)


Black maintained a full schedule of concert, radio, and television appearances in 1964-65. Like every other Epstein client, she was also busy in America as well, appearing on the
Ed Sullivan Show and such non-rock 'n roll venues as The Tonight Show. She was also a featured performer on a late 1965 British television special, The Beatles: The Music of Lennon and McCartney. By that time, she was, along with the Beatles, one of only two acts still personally managed by Brian Epstein , who regarded her as one of his two most precious musical discoveries--and, indeed, after the Beatles she was the most successful artist to come out of Liverpool.

(Bruce Eder, All Music Guide)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


It was 1967, I was doing the
Cilla show for the BBC, and Cliff Richard was guesting. Barbara [Hulanicki] of Biba was my lifeline, mine and [TV presenter] Cathy McGowan's. Cathy was doing Ready Steady Go! every week, and I wanted to be with her at the height of fashion. We'd go to Barbara's flat at 15 Cromwell Road, and they'd be sewing as we sat there. We'd be doing TV's Ready Steady Go! the next day - so this was Thursday night - and we'd sit there, having great faith that everything would be wonderful. And it always was! Barbara did my dress for the very first Royal Command Performance - it was maroon velvet . We were just babies at the time and she thought I should be very Juliet-esque. It got pinched actually. I lent it out to some exhibition, and never got it back. I wore a lot of Ossie Clark. I was mates with Ossie because he was from Liverpool. I've still got a lot of clothes in my attic that date from the Sixties. There's a lot of Biba, and a lot of Jean Varon there too, and Missoni ... When you got a bit of money, well, you went into Missoni, didn't you? I wore heaps of Tommy Nutter suits. Bobby and I financed Tommy when he opened his first business in Savile Row. He was the first tailor to open there for a couple of hundred years. We didn't know how the other tailors would react to it, but Tommy was the most lovable person, and they took him to their hearts. I remember him making a suit for Yoko [Ono], and he didn't really want to measure her inside leg. He had a problem with that. Tommy was a great designer. I still have his suits. I could have worn them a year ago, but I'm now at the weight I want to be, which is 9st 4lb. In those days I was seven and a half to eight stone. I brought one suit down from the loft. The jacket I can do. The waist-band on the trousers - no! But I'm not giving my clothes away. Why do you think they're in the loft?

(Cilla Black interviewed by Vicki Wickham - excerpted - July 9 2006, The Observer)

A Word From Morrissey

"Audiences need to feel that this country is important. I like America - in its place - but I was never influenced by rock'n'roll singers like Presley or Little Richard. I preferred the disposable cheap types - Billy Fury, Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield. I worship every belch of Cilla Black."

(Morrissey, interviewed by Tony Parsons in Vox magazine, 1993)

Cilla at the BBC

On 6th February 1968 the Three Beatles worked 12 hours at EMI 2:30pm-2am on the "Inner Light" and "Lady Madonna" only taking a break from 8pm to 9pm to watch Ringo on the first episode of Cilla Black’s show Cilla. Ringo is seen on this show with Peter Brough with his puppet Archie Andrews and participated in two sketches, first acting as a ventriloquist with Cilla singing "Nellie Dean". Finally he duetted with Cilla on “Do You Like Me?” and on “Act Naturally”.

Paul McCartney wrote the theme tune to her BBC series - "Step Inside Love". The author and critic Johnny Rogan noted in 1997; "for Paul McCartney to write a song for someone - at that time - was a tremendous privilege, and he wouldn't have done it but for his belief that Cilla Black was an important artist."

The earlier series of Cilla became a phenomenon. Guests included Tom Jones, Mary Hopkin, Donovan, Georgie Fame and Henry Mancini.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Work Is A Four Letter Word

In 1967 Cilla Black co-starred with David Warner in Work Is A Four Letter Word. The film was directed by Sir Peter Hall (his first foray into the cinema.) Based on the Henry Livings stage play Eh? and adapted for the big screen by Jeremy Summers, the plotline in a nutshell goes like this:

Set in a futuristic world where man and machines compete, this comical fantasy centers upon a rather eccentric man who prefers raising his special giant, euphoria-producing mushrooms to working and spending time with his fiancee. He means well, for he believes that his funny fungus will help combat the increasing dehumanization of society. However, unable to withstand his bride's pressure, he finally takes a real job in a power plant. There he knocks out the power and then feeds his mushrooms to the authorities. While they walk around in a hallucinatory daze, he and his fiancee take a baby carriage filled with mushrooms and hightail it out of town.
(Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide)

Ahem. Well, we are talking 1967 here, people.

Work Is A Four Letter Word
was Cilla's one and only full-length feature film where she starred in a leading role. Several times Black has commented on working on it; relishing the camaraderie with the film crew to experiencing near-fatal episodes with some of the stunt work. It's interesting to note that while making Word she was filming during the day and appearing in a West End show by night. An exhausting schedule.

In a 1997 interview Black revealed she was asked to appear in classic 1969 film The Italian Job, alongside Noel Coward and Benny Hill, playing the part of Michael Caine's girlfriend, but negotiations fell through between producers and her management over her fee.

Filmed in the typical Sixties style, in full glorious technicolor, it remains an interesting and stylish piece of film making. Work is A Four Letter Word has yet to be released commercially on either VHS or DVD.

Here at The Girl from Abbey Road we reckon Cilla's trip needs to be released... far out, man...

Right: David Warner, Cilla Black, and director Peter Hall take a break on the set of Work Is A Four Letter Word.

Brian Epstein Dies

Mr Brian Epstein, who built up the Beatles, Cilla Black, and others to international fame, was found dead in bed in his home in Belgravia, London, yesterday. He was 32. Police were called by the housekeeper. A friend of Mr Epstein said: "He has been unwell for some months." The Beatles were in Bangor where they were initiated into the cult of the Himalayan mystic, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Paul McCartney and his friend Jane Asher, the actress, left for London after hearing the news. Mr McCartney, looking pale and distressed, said: "It is a great shock and I am upset." John Lennon said: "The Maharishi told us not to be too overwhelmed by grief. I have lost only a few people who were very close to me. This is one of those occasions, but I feel my course of meditation here has helped me overcome my grief more easily than before."

Brian Epstein was considered as the Svengali who, by magic, created the Beatles and the resulting beat music boom. But he always denied [this] and their long-running success has proved him right. He was far more the Diaghilev of pop music than a Svengali. Indeed, his personal tastes were for the exotic, artistic, and classical. He loved classical music and enjoyed talking about it, which he could do in some depth. He was shy and sensitive. T
he sensitive side of his nature was, perhaps, the source of his melancholy. At times he seemed like a character enmeshed in an elaborate ironic Nabokovian plot: the modern artist-business man beset by the thoroughly old-fashioned vulgarities of the Philistine.

Born in 1935, Epstein had a conventional middle-class Jewish background. At 16 he started in his father's furniture shop, and broke this off for a time to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but became very successful in it as the manager of the family business record department. In October, 1961. Customers, he said, kept asking for a record called "Mr Bonnie," which the Beatles had recorded in Germany for an obscure company. The Beatles were appearing at the Cavern Club, just round the corner from his shop. The rest of this story is well known. Less well known or appreciated are Epstein's attempts to broaden his own scope as an impresario. In 1965 he bought the Saville Theatre. Unfortunately, he lost money with many of his productions there, particularly James Baldwin's play "The Amen Corner." All this added to his melancholy; he suffered from poor health, and the death of his father, with whom he was extremely close, was another blow.

("The Beatles' Diaghilev dies at 32", Stanley Reynolds, Monday August 28, 1967, The Guardian)

The Abbey Road Decade: Black Reviewed

Black's output is far superior to the limited reputation the carries in the U.S.A., where she charted but a handful of songs. The material features all of Black's hits, all of her important B-sides and album tracks; also, disc three is made up entirely of rarities, including some surprising demos like "Step Inside Love" from 1968 with Paul McCartney accompanying her on acoustic guitar -- it's almost good enough to have been released, which also proves that McCartney could have been a top session player if he hadn't made it in any other area. There's also Black's original rehearsal cut of "A Shot of Rhythm and Blues," a full-blown, Cavern-style Merseybeat performance with a band; a surviving Dick James Music acetate of Black's cover of "Fever," plus her unissued versions of "Heatwave" and "Shotgun," both among the best records she ever made, and closing with her mid-'70s cover of Phil Ochs' "Changes." All of the relevant tracks that weren't originally released in stereo have been remixed that way, and a good job done of it, too. The surprise for most casual listeners will come from the non-hits -- even with her original vocal limitations, which she quickly overcame, Black had a distinctive sound that made her work eminently enjoyable and even impressive. Coupled with some good arrangements and George Martin's crisp production, her music holds up astonishingly well. And Black, as she gained confidence, displays a surprisingly soulful approach on songs such as "He Won't Ask Me" and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling".
(Review of "1963-1973 The Abbey Road Decade", Bruce Eder, All Music Guide)


One of the most famous recordings made at Abbey Road in the 1960s featured Cilla Black recording Alfie in Studio One produced by George Martin and orchestrated by Burt Bacharach, the song's writer. Cilla says that she agreed to do the song only if Burt would fly from America for the session, arrange the song and play on it too. She didn't think for one minute he would do it but he did! Burt was a hard taskmaster (genius's always are said George Martin) and after numerous takes George asked Burt what he was looking for. 'For that little bit of magic' said Burt. To which George answered 'Well Burt, I think we had that on take three.' George comments that the first line of Alfie is one of the nicest things he has ever heard.

(Richard Porter,

The lore of Tin Pan Alley has it that legendary song-writer Burt Bacharach reduced a young Cilla Black to tears in the sanctified studios of Abbey Road. He was insisting on take after take in the sessions which eventually yielded Cilla's classic version of Alfie. "I think I made Cilla do 31 takes," he recalled matter-of-factly. "We had Sir George Martin sitting in the booth and I think we wound up with take number one... I was just looking for 100%. From everybody, the orchestra and Cilla... All that mattered was the record came out the way I wanted it to come out." Bacharach is comfortable with the label of "perfectionist", though this scarcely does justice to his steely micro-management, and it's clear that shelves groaning with Oscars and Emmys have come at considerable cost. "It's like this jukebox in my head at night. It's taken me a while to accept it, that this is the price you pay. I remember working on Alfie and trying to finish it. I went to see a play. And I'm watching this play, but I'm still working on Alfie, so I'm not watching the play. So I lose on both. I don't enjoy the play and I don't finish what I'm working on with Alfie.
(Interview with the BBC, 2006)
Attending the premiere of Alfie with Patti Boyd and George Harrison. London, March 1966

Memories of Lennon

With Paul and John on the set of The Music of Lennon and McCartney. Granada Television, Manchester, 1965.
It was thanks to John Lennon that I got my big break in music. I first met John when I was 15 years old and attending the Anfield Commercial College. Some time afterwards, I was at the Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead, and Brian Epstein came up to me and said: "I've never heard you sing. I want you to sing with the boys tonight." So I sang "Summertime", with The Beatles playing behind me, but I was terribly, terribly nervous, and Brian was not at all impressed, and I thought: "Well, OK, that's that, I'll just be singing around the clubs in Liverpool." A few months later, I was singing in a club called the Blue Angel. After I finished my set, Brian came up to me and said: "Why didn't you sing like that at the Majestic?" I had no idea he was even in the club that night, but he loved what he heard and asked to manage me right then. I later asked Ringo if he had asked Brian to give me another listen, because Ringo and I were friends, but he just looked at me and said: "It wasn't me, it was John." I thank him to this day because, but for John, Brian never would have given me a second shot after that awful first audition. It truly changed my life.
(Cilla Black, extracted from 'Memories of John Lennon', edited by Yoko Ono Lennon, published by Sutton Publishing)

Starting Out

One day when Rory Storm was playing at the Cavern he handed the microphone to Cilla. "He asked me, for giggles, to get up on the stage and sing with them. They thought: 'Oh, Cilla's a bit of a case -- she'll do anything for a laugh.' And probably the lead singer wanted to have a rest anyway." So Cilla got up on the stage and took up the lyric of "Fever" where Rory Storm left off, belting it out in her strong voice. Then they made her sing "Always" and some R-&-B numbers.
Word of Cilla's performance quickly spread among the Liverpool groups, because at that time there were no girl singers in the city, so she was a novelty. In the weeks following, every time she went to a club she would be pointed out by somebody and would be made to get up and sing. Soon a group called the Big Three suggested that, instead of Cilla's singing with everybody and not earning anything, she should sing with them only, and for pay. Shortly after this, an advertisement appeared in the local newspapers: "Come and see Swinging Priscilla at the Zodiac tonight."
"I've always been called Cilla," she says, "so it never occurred to me that the Priscilla in the advertisement might be me. After work, I couldn't wait to wash my face and put new makeup on to go down to the Zodiac and see who this 'Swinging Priscilla' was. When I got to the door -- it was marvellous. These clubs, because you'd go down to the cellar and it'd have a little trap, sort of an eye, like a cat door only about five feet up the door, and you'd knock three times and a piece of wood would slide back and they'd say, 'Who is it? -- and that night I said, 'It's me.' And they said, 'Oh, good. Glad you came tonight because we couldn't think how to get hold of you, and you're on in a half hour!' And I said, 'On?' I beg your pardon!' And they said, 'You're singing with the Big Three.' And I said, 'Oh no, I'm not!' They blackmailed me, actually. They said if I didn't sing with the Big Three I would be barred from the Zodiac. And to be barred from this particular club, which was at the height of its popularity, was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Without this club there was no other place to go, because although the other clubs were still going they weren't 'in' at the time; the Zodiac was the 'in' club of the moment. So I just had to do it."
(Caroline Silver, published in December 1966 by Scholastic Magazines, Inc.)

After You're My World

Black captured in 1966 by Jane Bown
After "You're My World," Black's career was made. At her worst, as a pop singer of uncertain range and instincts, she was almost a throwback to Helen Shapiro, a major female pop-star of the pre-Beatles era. At her best, as on "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," she had an intense soulful quality, akin to Tom Jones as a ballad singer --indeed, she might've been Britain's answer to Dionne Warwick. She displayed a surprisingly adventurous nature, as with "It's For You," a waltz-like number that Paul McCartney personally selected for her from among his best non-Beatles destined originals. She covered it in a jazz arrangement and the resulting single reached No. 7 in England. McCartney remained close to her for years, although Black's closest musical confidant was songwriter Bobby Willis, whom she later married.
(Bruce Eder, All Music Guide)